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N Brown's first half sales dip as JD Williams underperforms

N Brown Group sales fell 0.6% in the first half of 2014, with like-for-likes down 0.5%.

The group’s plus-size womenswear brand JD Williams saw sales fall 3% in the 26 weeks to August 30, while womenswear business Simply Be and menswear retailer Jacamo’s sales were up 4% and 10% respectively.

The home shopping company said “planned phasing adjustments” to Simply Be and JD Williams had impacted sales in the period.

As part of a wider group modernisation strategy, JD Williams’ collection was given a more contemporary makeover for autumn 14 in a bid to boost sales to older women. ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly was signed as brand ambassador and starred in the brand’s first TV campaign. In today’s statement, N Brown said JD Williams’s customer base has grown 20% for the autumn 14 season.

The group reduced its marketing investment in catalogues by 24%, which contributed to the overall fall in sales. Homeware and gift sales were down 9% in the first half, but profitability improved due to a planned reduction in non-core home and electrical ranges.

Chief executive Angela Spindler said: “[During the second quarter] we have pushed on with our programme of far-reaching change aimed at modernising the way we operate and how we go to market, equipping the business to capitalise on the attractive long-term opportunities we see in our space.

“The combined effect of changes to our category focus, the planned reduction in credit sales from high risk areas and the reduction and re-phasing of our mailing programme has reduced revenues in the half, however we have improved the quality and profitability of our sales.”

Across the group, store like-for-like sales rose 17%. N Brown’s latest Simply Be and Jacamo dual branded store opens tomorrow on Oxford Street.

Online penetration was at 58% in the first half, up 1% year-on-year. Demand for N Brown’s products was up 16% in the US.

Spindler continued: “I am pleased with progress so far; the team is implementing the plan effectively, delivering our differentiated offer for customers and continuing N Brown’s record of strong financial performance. With a strong activity plan for the second half we are on track to deliver our full year forecast.”

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